Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1894, With the Annual Message of the President, Transmitted to Congress, December 3, 1894
Mr. Uhl to Mr. Terrell.
Department of State, January 2, 1894.
Sir: I inclose for your information a copy of a letter from the secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and its inclosure, relative to the increase of impediments placed in the way of foreign teachers in Turkey by the policy of the Porte.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Smith to Mr. Gresham.
for Foreign Missions, Mass., December 26, 1893. (Received Dec. 28.)
Sir: A letter just received from Rev. H. N. Barnum, d. d., one of our oldest and most valued missionaries, residing at Harpoot, in Eastern Turkey, contains matter of such importance that I inclose a copy of material parts thereof. The region from which Dr. Barnum writes, and which he represents, includes the valley of the Euphrates and the region as far east as Lake Yan and northward to the Black Sea. Harpoot, the point from which he writes, is the educational center of the mission. Located there we find Euphrates College, with departments for both men and women, and the theological seminary of the mission, where the native preachers are trained for their work; Euphrates College gathers pupils to the number of 550, about equally divided between the sexes, and is rendering a very valuable service to the cause of higher education in the Turkish Empire, as well as to the missionary work, of which it is the center and the crown. Undoubtedly all the facts contained in this communication have been communicated by Dr. Barnum and his associates to the United States legation at Constantinople, but it seemed to me well that the Department of State at Washington should be immediately advised of these facts and of the attitude of the Turkish Government which they denote.
We are greatly pleased with the spirit and energy and ability displayed by Judge Terrell in his office at Constantinople, and feel great confidence that no interest connected with the Americans resident in the Turkish Empire or with their legitimate work there will suffer neglect at his hands. The facts presented in Dr. Barnum’s letter show the increasing purpose of the Turkish Government to check, if not to destroy, the benevolent and Christian work which our missionaries have in hand, and call for appropriate action and remonstrance on the part of our Government. If the chapels where Protestant Christians gather for worship are to be closed, and if the touring of our mission aries through the field is to be suppressed and the literature of the world is to be tabooed, such a work as our missionaries have prosecuted in the Turkish Empire for seventy years and which everywhere has sought the welfare of the Empire and the peace and prosperity of its inhabitants must soon come to naught.
Our missionaries, to a man, are thoroughly loyal to the Ottoman Government; not a fault on their part can be successfully pointed out by the Turkish Government. They are ready to be put on trial if there are any charges against them, and will consent, any one of them against whom these charges are successfully proved, to retire from the field. We at these rooms would not retain in our service in the Empire any man who will not most scrupulously comply with the instructions given to him when he is sent to the field that he hold himself first, midst, and last loyal to the Government of the nation. The suspicions of the Turkish Government, if they have any, are groundless, and we challenge them to prove their accusations or to withdraw them.
We await with eager desire tidings of the securing of the firman for Anatolia College, which was pledged last spring by the Turkish Government as the principal part of its settlement of the Marsovan incident, a pledge which our Government, of course, will insist shall be [Page 707] fulfilled. Nothing of importance has been settled in the Marsovan incident until this firman is granted. The repayment of the cost of the building burned is a trifle; the issuance of the permit to rebuild is a trifle; the firman for the college, which gives it legal standing in the eye of the Government, is the main thing.
I am, etc.,
Foreign Secretary A. B. C. F. M.
Mr. Barnum to Mr. Smith.
Dear Dr. Smith: * * * I am sorry to say that the signs that the Government is pursuing a reactionary policy are increasing. I will mention a few.
(1) Very few of the Protestant communities throughout the country have been able to build regular churches, even with the help of the Board. They have been temporary structures, of sun-burnt brick, generally of two stories, including a parsonage, or an old dwelling house transformed, and not in any respect answering to the conception of a church as that is understood in this country. Schools are generally held in them likewise. The building of a church requires permission from the Sultan himself in the shape of a firman, and the securing of a firman is a long and tedious process, with no little expense. So the great majority of these chapels are without firman.
About a year and a half ago the grand vizier sent out an inquiry as to the number of places of worship in the country which have no firman, and our governor-general passed the inquiry on to the heads of different communities. The Protestant civil head gave a list of chapels in this district of that description, and that was the last we heard of it, and it was supposed that no more would be said about it. The other day the Protestant civil head having learned that a petty governor in the region of Arabkir had closed two village chapels—those of Aghun and Enetsik—he began to take measures to secure orders from the governor-general for their reopening, when he was informed that strong and separate orders had been received from the grand vizier, the minister of justice, and the minister of the interior commanding that all places of worship which have not Imperial sanction shall be closed; so he made no further effort. There are not more than four or five churches with firmans in all this field. The rest have only the ordinary building permits of the local governments so although each one is a center of a quiet agency for reforming men, and doing more than anything else to make good citizens, they are liable to be closed any day, and the congregations left out of doors.
(2) The restrictions upon printed matter are becoming more and more severe. The index expurgatorius is becoming a long one. Some seven months ago, in company with the college professors, we spent nearly a whole day in going through the college and seminary libraries cutting out leaves and erasing paragraphs from encyclopedias, histories, and other standard works that are thought might be objectionable. Books that we knew to be proscribed we burned altogether. The other day the superintendent of education brought in a new list including Milton’s Paradise Lost, and some numbers of the Missionary Herald. [Page 708] I found three copies of the former in the college library and yesterday I sent them to be destroyed. The bearer of the books brought back the request for the Heralds, but as those are found only in our libraries and are personal, I do not send them. The demand may be pressed and the question will then arise whether we, as American citizens, have a right to possess not only the Missionary Herald, but Milton, Shakespeare, general histories, and other standard works.
(3) I understand that an inquiry has been addressed to the Porte by our local government as to the mode of procedure in case it is considered necessary to search the houses or schools of foreigners, and the reply has been received substantially as follows, viz: “Write to us and we will inform the embassy, and then you will proceed as in the case of Ottoman subjects.” As we and the Catholic padres are the only foreigners, we can not be suspected of counterfeiting or possessing stolen goods, so it can refer only to printed matter or private papers. If anything of the kind is undertaken here we shall endeavor to avoid a collision by professing to make up a case like possessing a copy of Milton or Shakespeare and referring it to Constantinople and the legation to have our rights determined there.
(4) Mr. Browne has recently been on a tour across the Taurus to the out stations of Choonkoosh, Chermook, Argheni, and Bekur Maden. These belong to the vilayet or province of Diarbekir. On Saturday our governor-general sent a high official to me to say that he had received a communication from the governor-general of Diarbekir complaining of this tour, and saying that Mr. Browne was not put under arrest and detained because he said he lived in Harpoot and was going there, so the question was referred to the Harpoot government. Now Mr. Browne and his work are well known in all these places.
He or some one of our number visits them every year, and this is the first time that objection has been raised to our touring work. The Government can know, if it wishes to, that American missionaries are loyal men, and that they are utterly opposed to the insane revolutionary plots of some Armenians who are attempting to stir up rebellion in spite of the protest of at least ninety-nine hundredths of their own people. We are promoters of education, of peace, of good order, and of good citizenship. In fact, the Government could not do a better thing than pay the expenses of our touring, but the official who called on me said, “The times are changed and the Government does not like to have foreigners going about among the people,” so steps may be taken to prevent touring altogether. * * *